Matt Prior will return to WIN Stadium for the first time since he left St George Illawarra on Friday night determined for Cronulla to strike a blow against his former club and end their unbeaten start to the season.
The Sharks travel to Wollongong still smarting from their round two derby loss at Southern Cross Group Stadium having endured a slow start to the season. The 2016 premiers have lost three of their opening five matches while having to watch their bitter rivals storm to the top of the NRL table with an unblemished 5-0 record.
Prior, part of St George Illawarra’s last premiership-winning squad in 2010, is excited to return home having grown up playing his junior football in Thirroul. Playing at WIN Stadium was always a game to remember for Prior as a young player and told the Leader he would be determined to bring the two points back up the M1.
“It’s a great test for us to see where we’re at. We’re not playing great football but we back ourselves against anyone,” Prior said.
“They’re obviously the front runners at the moment and we’re going to go down there and give them everything we can [and] hopefully come away with the win.
“We had a great first half and then the second half we couldn’t get anything going [in round two]. We couldn’t get any momentum. We ended up killing ourselves in the end.
“It really hurt, them coming to our field and getting the two points.
“It’s massive. Their forward pack has been one of the best in the competition so far and we pride ourselves on having a pretty good forward pack ourselves. So we’ll go down there and try and match it. And I think that’s where it’ll be won, in the forwards.”
While St George Illawarra will put their perfect start on the line Cronulla will be desperate for a win not only to make up for their derby loss a month ago, but to kick start their season.
Scrappy wins over Parramatta and Melbourne, tight losses to North Queensland and St George Illawarra and a frustrating defeat to the Sydney Roosters have left Cronulla languishing in 11th place.
But Prior is adamant the Sharks are not too far away from their best football.
“I feel like we’re all heading in the right direction,” he said.
“There’s a couple of little areas that need to be addressed, penalties and completion rate, holding onto possession. Little areas that have been slipping in our game.
“Giving the other team too much ball and fatiguing ourselves in the process. Which is I guess causing our attack to suffer a little bit. But the better we get in those areas the better our attack will go.”